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Parents Will 'Fight' Plan to Merge 2 Upper West Side Schools

By Emily Frost | October 21, 2016 8:33am | Updated on October 21, 2016 11:24am
 The city wants to move P.S. 241's students (pictured here) into P.S. 76's building next year.
The city wants to move P.S. 241's students (pictured here) into P.S. 76's building next year.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — A plan to consolidate two neighborhood schools has opponents worried that it'll lead to more charter schools and won't benefit students.

Some parents and members of the local community education council are speaking out against a Department of Education plan to merge P.S. 241 on West 113th Street with P.S. 76 on West 121st Street, starting in the fall of 2017.

While letters went home with students about the merger, parent meetings hosted by the DOE haven't happened yet, said DOE Superintendent Ilene Altschul at a Wednesday meeting with locals and Community Education Council 3.

"The parents are very upset," said P.S. 241 parent and PTA President Debbie Patterson. "We are going to fight. We’re not just going to lay down."

Patterson said after the meeting that the parents created a petition to fight the move that they will hand Altschul when she visits the school Monday and that they are trying to gather support among elected officials for their cause. 

Over the years, P.S. 241 has shrunk from a K-8 school to a K-5 school and now serves 115 students, which has meant fewer than 10 students per grade in some cases. 

But the size of the school is one of its assets, Patterson noted. 

A consolidated school is "not going to be a small school, it’s going to be a big school," she said. "We need a small school."

During the 2014-15 school year, 41 percent of students at P.S. 241 had special needs, according to state data. Smaller schools benefit these types of students, opponents of the change said.

"[N]ow these families who have special needs, who have a range of needs, are being moved out," said CEC 3 member Noah Gotbaum. "We’ve got to stop it."

The move is also being billed as a way to help P.S. 76's enrollment, which has gone down in recent years. 

"My school is already full as it is. We need more resources, we don’t need more kids," said a woman who identified herself as a P.S. 76 parent at the meeting. 

Gotbaum blamed P.S. 241's shrinking enrollment on its co-location with the Success Academy Harlem 4 charter school that happened in 2008. 

"[Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz] siphoned off families, she siphoned off resources. She essentially took over the building. [P.S.] 241 couldn’t survive," Gotbaum said at the meeting. 

"We are sympathetic to that and we understand the struggles and the challenges that the school has faced," Altschul responded.

However, the move is in the best interests of the students who will gain access to more resources and share P.S. 241's STEM curriculum, she said.

The Panel for Education Policy will vote on the plan in December, Altschul said. 

Success Academy declined to comment.